Archive | April, 2013

Fish Tacos with Cilantro-Chile Sauce

20 Apr

Fish TacosMy first truly great taco experience was a few months ago, while I was on vacation in Austin. The city is probably most well known for its barbeque joints, but also happens to be a huge food truck hub. There’s a food truck for almost anything you can imagine, from cupcakes to bahn mi. It’s somewhat overwhelming, but thankfully a friend who had visited a few weeks prior told me to try the baja shrimp tacos at Torchy’s Tacos. In her words, “you’ll never accept a mediocre taco again. It’s that good”.

In an attempt to recreate this dish, I scoured my entire collection of food magazines to find a similar recipe. Luckily, Food & Wine came to the rescue with their latest issue featuring modern Mexican classics. Their recipe called for skirt steak and a pecan-chipotle sauce, but I was in the mood for something lighter so I swapped the steak for breadcrumb-crusted tilapia and used the marinade as a sauce.

There’s only one thing that is absolutely necessary for a great taco: authentic corn tortillas. They have a ton more flavor and better texture than flour-based ones. Other than that, the rest is pretty much up to you. Make it for a quick weekday dinner or invite your friends over and have them assemble their own. Add some guacamole and a few margaritas and you’ve got a quick and delicious dinner party in less than an hour.

Fish Tacos

Fish

¾ lb. tilapia filets, cut into 2”x4” pieces
¾ cup breadcrumbs or panko
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour

Sauce

½ cup chopped cilantro, plus more to garnish
½ small red onion, chopped
½ medium Serrano chile with seeds
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbs. fresh lime juice, plus slices for serving
1 tbs. Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Tacos

8 warmed corn torillas
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
3 radishes, pickled*
½ jalapeño, pickled*
¼ cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
*To pickle the radishes and jalapeño, cut each into paper thin slices. In a small bowl add 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and 1 tsp. salt. Mix the radishes and jalapeños into the liquid and let sit for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking tray with foil and set aside. Place the flour on a plate, along with some salt and pepper. Spread out the breadcrumbs on a separate plate. Set up your breading station so that the flour plate is first, then the egg, and finally the breadcrumbs.
Take one tilapia filet and dip it into the flour, so a thin layer covers the entire surface. Remove any excess. Dip the filet into the egg, flipping it over several times until completely moist. Finally, dip it into the breadcrumbs, making sure all sides are completely covered. Place your filet on the baking sheet and repeat for the remaining filets. Bake for 12-14 minutes until the outside is golden brown and the inside is flaky.
While the fish is cooking, prepare the sauce by combining the cilantro, red onion, Serrano chile, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and mustard in a food processor. Pulse until minced but not pureed. Season to your liking.
When the fish is done, remove from the oven and warm the tortillas in a skillet over medium heat. When heated through, remove and place on a plate. Add one filet, the sauce, carrots, cheese and some chopped cilantro to garnish.

S’mores Cupcakes

19 Apr

S'mores CupcakeMy favorite part of summer is sitting around a campfire and eating s’mores. After a long day of swimming and running around, there is nothing better than curling up in a flannel blanket, watching the night sky and consuming this sticky delight. The smell of toasting wood, combined with the fluff of the marshmallow melting into the creamy chocolate that’s barely being supported by crisp graham crackers is a staple at any outdoor gathering. I always compete with others to see who can get their marshmallow the most caramelized without burning it, dropping it, or setting it on fire. Naturally, there are always a few fluffy casualties in the process.

Making s’mores indoors has never been a successful experiment for me. I’ve blown up far too many marshmallows in the microwave. Plus, I miss the smell of the firewood that goes along with the great taste. As a quick fix to tide me over until summer arrives, I came up with the S’mores Cupcake to satisfy my cravings. Although I can’t promise an authentic camping experience from consuming one of these, it will make you feel better until you can get your hands on the real thing.

If you had any meringue left over from making our Lemon Meringue Pie, you can use it to top these cupcakes!

S’mores Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcake

1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole large egg
1 large egg yolk
4 graham crackers

In a small bowl whisk together the cocoa powder and the water until the cocoa powder is dissolved and let the mixture cool to room temperature. In a bowl whisk together the flour, the baking soda, and a pinch of salt. In another bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar. Add the whole egg and the egg yolk, mixing until batter is smooth. Alternate adding cocoa with flour mixture, mixing well after each addition.
Crumble graham crackers and add 1 1/2 Tbsp to each unlined cupcake pan. Press graham cracker down firmly and fill the rest of the tin with the cupcake batter; about 2/3 full. Bake in a 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Meringue

6 egg whites
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of cream of tartar

Whip whites and cream of tartar until frothy, and slowly stream in sugar. Whip until glossy, soft-peaks form.

Assembly

When completely cool, top with meringue. Happy Trails!

Lemon Meringue Pie

14 Apr

Lemon Meringue Pie

These days, my sous chef friend Lia and I find that running is the best way to discover new places, enjoy the weather, and makes an excellent excuse to treat ourselves to something sugary and delicious afterward.

On an extra-sunny day we stumbled across a local farmers market. The wonderful smells and bright colors were bursting from the stands of cucumbers, watermelons, oranges and bell peppers. Inspiration struck us when we saw a grand pyramid of lemons. What’s the old adage? When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?

Nope, we were going to make Lemon Meringue Pie.
This recipe comes from Lia’s personal collection. She is constantly developing and baking various recipes. I, of course, am always on hand to assist and to taste. Her version of this classic uses a shortbread crust instead of the usual pie crust. I find that the sandy texture of the shortbread is less overwhelming with the lemon curd than a traditional crust.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Curd

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 butter, cubed

In a 2 quart saucepan, combine lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, eggs, and butter. Cook over medium-low heat until thick enough to hold marks from whisk, and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

Shortbread Pie Crust

1 cup butter
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly mix in flour and baking powder. Press dough evenly into a 9 inch pie pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Meringue

6 egg whites
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of cream of tartar

Whip whites and cream of tartar until frothy, and slowly stream in sugar. Whip until glossy, soft-peaks form.

Assembly

When pie shell is fully cooled, add lemon curd and top with meringue. Divide and enjoy!

Lentil Chickpea Salad with Feta and Tahini

10 Apr

IMG_4979This delicious adaptation comes via Smitten Kitchen’s version of April Bloomfield’s recipe in “A Girl and Her Pig”.

Side dishes never seem to get the credit they deserve. Usually a casual afterthought or plate-filler, they’re the last item to be listed on restaurant menus and sometimes even left off altogether. Sides are the Jan Brady of the culinary world, always playing second fiddle to its cooler, more popular counterpart, the entrée.

Regardless, these dishes have always been a favorite of mine. At restaurants I often order two or three sides and a glass of wine and leave feeling completely satiated. Of course, not everybody has such an affinity for them as I do, but I think there’s a lot yet to be discovered in these small plates.

When I found this salad recipe on Smitten Kitchen, I immediately was drawn to it. Besides the fact that I love Mediterranean food, the recipe was originally created by professional chef April Bloomfield. This means that there’s a lot of attention to detail in this recipe. She suggests not just boiling the lentils in water; but adding a few sage leave and garlic cloves. She also doesn’t use pre-ground spices; she buys the seeds and grinds them herself.

This side dish has so much flavor and texture that it’s good enough to serve on it’s own. This salad also goes well with this lamb meatball recipe from the Jerusalem Cookbook.

Even the most carnivorous eaters can enjoy this vegetarian dish. It may not be an entrée, but it’s definitely worth a try.

Lentil Chickpea Salad with Feta and Tahini

1 cup dried green lentils,
2 large garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
2 fresh sage sprigs
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tsps. coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted and ground
½ large garlic clove
2 tbs. tahini paste
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
2 tbs. plus 2 tsps. extra-virgin olive oil
1-15 oz. can chickpeas, drained (preferably Goya)
½ small preserved lemon, rind only, finely diced
1 small red onion, sliced paper thin
1 handful of parsley or cilantro, roughly chopped
¼ cup feta
1 and ½ tabs. sesame seeds, toasted

To make the lentils, pour them into a pot along with two cups of water, the garlic, sage and the two tablespoons of olive oil. Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer gently for about thirty minutes, give or take a few minutes depending on how tender you like them.  Turn off the heat, let the lentils cool, then drain and pick out the garlic and sage.

To make the dressing, mix together the ground coriander and cumin and place one teaspoons of the mixture in a small bowl. Mash the garlic clove to a paste or use a garlic press and add to the bowl. Add in the tahini, three tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of water. Mix all ingredients until combined. Season to your liking.

To assemble the salad, place the onion slices in a bowl, breaking them up as you go. Add salt, two teaspoons of lemon juice and two teaspoons of the olive oil. To easily juice the lemon, stick the prongs of a fork into the flesh of the lemon and move in a circular motion. Add in the cilantro, feta and one teaspoon of the coriander-cumin mixture and stir.

Combine the lentils, chickpeas and preserved lemon in a large bowl. Add in the tahini dressing and a few pinches of salt, if desired. Stir in onion, feta mixture and add in a few pinches of the remaining spice mixture and toasted sesame seeds to finish.

Creamy Lemon Risotto with Asparagus and Cremini Mushrooms

6 Apr
IMG_4873

Is it just me, or has this winter felt particularly long? The first day of spring was two weeks ago, but I still find myself wearing the same puffy jacket and boots that I wore mid-January.

On a cold, rainy evening last week I decided enough is enough. I may not be able to create spring outside, but I can create it in my kitchen. I’m a huge fan of Food52 and was inspired by this risotto recipe that I came across on their blog. Everything about it screams springtime: crunchy veggies, fresh herbs and lots of lemon. It was the perfect cure for my winter blues.

The key is making great risotto is patience. The rice needs to be stirred constantly to allow the starches to be released, which takes at least thirty minutes. This requires a lot attention, so try not to leave your risotto unattended too often or you won’t get that wonderful, creamy texture. There aren’t any shortcuts here, but the end result is more than worth the effort.

Once you get the basic recipe down, you’ll find yourself making it all the time. Simply add in any combination of your favorite veggies, proteins, and herbs. Voilá! Dinner is served.

Lemon Risotto with Asparagus and Cremini Mushrooms

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
½ lb Cremini mushrooms, stems removed and quartered
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 small garlic cloves, minced
3 tbs. olive oil
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
1 tsp. butter
½ lb. asparagus, cut into 1’’ pieces
1 handful parsley
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
¼ cup Parmesan or Piave cheese, grated

Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer with the lid on. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Sauté until softened, 3-4 minutes, then remove the mushrooms and set aside.

In another saucepan, boil 3 cups of water and add the asparagus. Blanch for 2-3 minutes until they turn a bright green color. Remove them with a slotted spoon and immediately place them in bowl of ice water. Let cool for a minute then drain and set aside.

Heat another 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Stir in the shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and let it toast for about 3 minutes.  Add the wine and let it cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Add ½ cup stock to rice and stir constantly. Allow liquid to be fully absorbed before adding another ½ cup of stock. Repeat this process until the rice is fully cooked and develops a creamy texture. This may or may not require all four cups of stock.

When the rice is done cooking, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter. Add the asparagus, mushrooms, lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley and cheese. Stir and serve warm.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

5 Apr

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

As long as I can remember, my dad and I have shared a love of pineapple. We always had a container of the fresh fruit cut up at all times, or backup cans in the pantry in case the ones at the market weren’t quite ripe enough.
One day, I took to the kitchen to find out what dessert I could make that would feature pineapple. We tried making cookies, but they were definitely out of the question, because they were so soggy! The combination of pineapple and chocolate didn’t appeal to us, so brownies and fudge cake were not an option either. Finally, we settled on vanilla cake. What could be better than making my favorite fruit into cake form? It was then that our version of pineapple upside down cake was born.
Years later, I’m still tweaking the recipe, adding spices and extra pineapple juice for a richer flavor, but it’s still the first recipe that my dad and I worked together on.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

4 eggs
½ cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 can sliced pineapple
1 cup cake flour, sifted
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp clove
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Take melted ½ cup of butter and pour over bottom of a 10 inch cake pan. Sprinkle brown sugar over butter and lay out pineapple slices evenly.
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Separate the egg yolks and whites into two bowls. In one bowl, beat egg whites just until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating well after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks form. In another bowl, beat egg yolks at high speed until very thick and yellow. Gently fold egg yolks and flour mixture into whites until barely combined. Fold in the 1 tablespoon melted butter. Spread batter evenly over pineapple in pan. Bake for 30 minutes, and cool before flipping out of pan!

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